Focus on the locus: Keeping high school students "On Track" to graduation

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“Focus on the locus.” As a teacher, that was a mantra that stuck with me. For my students’ achievement, what is and is not within my ability to control? New research from Chicago sheds light on an answer that may challenge some common assumptions.

The summary (full study forthcoming) provides impressive results from a Chicago Public Schools initiative begun in 2007 after research showed that students “on track” at the end of ninth grade are almost four times more likely to graduate than their “off track” peers. Providing real-time data to schools on their ninth graders’ attendance rates and course performance was a key aspect of this initiative. Researchers from University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research now have enough years of data to show how both “on track” and graduation rates alike increased.

Source: University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research

This is a great example of a district using research to identify an area for high potential impact and then strategically using data to target its efforts in implementing a solution. The report summary states it best:

“In contrast to the common assumption that school dropout is an intractable problem in urban schools, the improvements in on-track and graduation rates in the primary and secondary mover schools suggest that students’ performance is actually highly malleable.” 

While some very real obstacles to student achievement lay outside the school and classroom, we should not be so quick to write them off as outside our locus of control. Truly impressive accomplishments can result from efforts on the inside